Valley Forge Golf Club

No frills and few thrills at this course

For every golfer who is looking for the newest, plushest, most difficult course in the area, there's another on the lookout for a track that offers decent, basic golf - inexpensive, convenient, and not so tough that six balls will be lost by the fourth hole.

At a glance
Getting there: Valley Forge Golf Club is located at 401 North Gulph Road, King of Prussia, just off the PA Turnpike, across from King of Prussia Mall. Phone 610-337-1776.

Green fees: Weekends, $30 to walk, $40 to ride; after 3 p.m., $18 to walk, $25 to ride. Weekdays, $20 to walk, $33 to ride; after 3 p.m., $15 to walk, $23 to ride.

Carts: Carts are $13 per person. Walking is permitted any time. Caddies are not available.

Amenities: Fully-stocked pro shop, snack bar, driving range, putting and chipping green.

Rating: Price is right, golf is basic.

Information accurate as of 8/26/2002

That pretty much describes Valley Forge Golf Club, just about a solid 3-wood from King of Prussia Mall.

At $23 to walk on weekends and $19 on weekdays, the cost should not make anybody flinch when reaching for wallet or purse.

That said, at Valley Forge, a staple for area golfers since 1928, don't expect to find a fancy clubhouse, a comfortable bar and grill, a well-stocked pro shop or a driving range. There's none of the above, except for a pro shop, which is spare at best. As for food, there's a halfway house that serves sodas, hot dogs and crackers.

You have to work hard to lose a ball at Valley Forge. There are few bunkers, no marshes, no dense woods, no deep rough, and not a drop of water on the course, except for the drinking fountains. The fairways on this short, wide-open course tend to be generous and forgiving. The greens are also small and, except on a few holes, flat.

None of which bothered one chatty newcomer to the game, a Valley Forge semi-regular who was looking to get paired up on the first tee Friday.

``I know a lot of guys that wouldn't play this course,'' he said. ``But I played Merion the other day, and I like this course. I say, if you like golf, you play anywhere and everywhere.''

Valley Forge is not to be confused with Merion - not by the longest of shots. Golf Digest's Places to Play gives Valley Forge a one-star rating, meaning ``basic golf,'' and lists such player comments as ``good beginner's course,'' ``nothing special,'' ``acceptable,'' ``old style'' and ``being so close to Philly, it's always crowded.''

That may be, but assistant professional Frank Wright believes the course is just the ticket for more than a few players.

``It's enjoyable to the average golfer because there's not a lot of trouble, and a challenge to all golfers because of the small greens,'' he said.

Small as they are, the greens may be Valley Forge's strongest feature. Last week, they were in excellent condition - thick, true and freshly cut.

The back nine of the layout - the architect's name is long forgotten - turns hilly and is more interesting than the up-and-back front side.

The 12th hole, a 476-yard par-5, is over hill and dale to an elevated green that kicks anything to the left down an embankment. Regulars regard the par-4, 412-yard 14th hole as the toughest on the course. The fairway, which runs along a busy street, slopes right to left, flanked by a few trees that can make things interesting.

The 15th, 161 yards with its elevated tee and green, is the most interesting par 3 on the course. That's quickly followed by the most scenic hole on the course, the par-5, 458-yard No. 17, with an elevated tee and a lazy, dogleg-right fairway.

Little surprise, as Wright confirms, that golfers who slip out of nearby office buildings for a quick nine definitely favor the back side.

Valley Forge, owned by the Hankins family, is not the course to challenge low-handicappers. It measures only 5,960 from the white tees, with a course rating of 68.9 and a slope of 107, less than the national average of 113. (Despite what the scorecard says, there are no blue tees, only white and red).

But for mid- and high-handicappers, or for golfers on a budget, Valley Forge may be worth a try. It's convenient, it's forgiving, and it's in quite decent condition.

Originally published Oct. 6, 1996